Sometimes when I’m talking to other childless women, I feel lucky. Sure, I don’t have children and I wish I did, but my reasons for being without children are so much more benign than they could be. That became clear as I interviewed people for my Childless by Marriage book.
For example, Mindy from Arizona said she had a horrible childhood. Her mother was a monster, and she decided she never wanted to bring a child into this messed-up world. She went into early menopause after being treated for breast cancer, so she couldn’t have a child even if she wanted to.
Karen, also from Arizona, had a premature baby who died at birth. It was so awful she didn’t ever want to risk going through that again.
Jan, a retired teacher from Colorado, had gonorrhea that was misdiagnosed and untreated for years, scarring her fallopian tubes. Later, she had a hysterectomy. In their late 40s, she and her husband briefly considered adopting a special needs child but decided they didn’t want to start a family that late in life.
Another woman with rheumatoid arthritis has been so crippled most of her life that not only did she not feel able to have a child but she couldn’t find a man willing to deal with her handicap.
Many woman have had abortions. Many have been nagged and harassed by their families. Many hate their mothers. Some have husbands who drink or abuse them. Others struggle with mental illness and fear they would pass it on to their children. And of course, many couples try and try to have a baby, only to have their hearts broken when they can’t get pregnant or they suffer one miscarriage after another.
In comparison, I was blessed. My mother, God rest her soul, was a saint. She loved me unconditionally and supported me in my choices. I know she would have loved to be a grandmother. When I think about what it would have been like to see her holding my child, I weep. But she never pressured me about having children.
My family did not abuse or misuse me. My ex-husband may not have loved me the way I wanted, but he was civil. So far, I have not had cancer or other horrible illnesses. I get along with my stepchildren and their mother reasonably well, especially compared to what I hear about other families. I was blessed with a loving husband, a good home, enough money, health insurance, friends, work I love, and faith. I wish I had children, but still, I have to remember how lucky I am.
When you get to feeling down, stop thinking about what you don’t have and focus on what you DO have. I know it’s hard, but it really helps. And if you have a painful story you want to tell, we’re here to listen and care.